Gary Hirshberg

Today is an inspiring day here at Stonyfield. Today is the day Stonyfield is launching new breakthrough packaging for our multipack cups –packaging made from plants.

Packaging that looks, feels, and yes, sounds, exactly the same as the old packaging, yet is utterly – and environmentally – different. Packaging that takes an important step toward making sure we leave a healthier planet for future generations. Packaging that slashes greenhouse gas emissions by 48 percent, reduces the total global warming impact of Stonyfield by 9 percent, and raises the bar on new standards for sustainable packaging and the use of bio-plastics.

It’s packaging you can feel as good about as the organic yogurt inside.

The cup itself is exciting on its own. But when you look deeper, at the complete story of how Stonyfield got to this day – the journey from conception to cornfield to cup – the packaging change becomes something bigger. Something really worth shouting from the rooftops (or chirping about on your Twitter account).

“I’ve been at Stonyfield for almost twenty years working on sustainability, and it’s very rare that we have an opportunity to really make a giant leap forward towards that new green economy getting off of oil,” Nancy Hirshberg, our VP of Natural Resources says. “So this project for me has been so personally fulfilling. It’s involved everyone from all over our company, from R&D and engineering, and purchasing, and marketing and natural resources to come together to really innovate and to do something that’s new, that really gets us beyond just using less stuff and onto the new materials of the future.”

The move to PLA (polylactic acid) from polystyrene has been a long time in the making. It’s been an involved process combining the passion and knowledge of an extremely dedicated group led by the vision of our CE-Yo Gary Hirshberg. There’ve been many twists and turns, lots of setbacks along the way, some moments when it looked impossible and an incredible amount of learning, too. And never a thought of turning back.

“There has never been a more urgent moment for all of us to recognize what we are doing to this one planet we call home,” shares Gary Hirshberg. “The great thing is that we can still turn things around and realize this incredible opportunity we have to build a sustainable economy where all of us win—consumers, industry and our childrens’ children. “

Sharing what we’ve learned with others, in fact, has been – and continues to be – an essential part of this journey. We’ve been talking with experts about the move to PLA, discussing the impacts and concerns that accompany the change. Key leaders in fields ranging from recycling to GMOs to children’s health have provided key insights to this initiative.

What a response! Michelle Mauthe Harvey of the Environmental Defense Fund said, “Stonyfield appears to understand both the potential and the complexities of these new materials and have done an admirable job of due diligence. It is a great next step.” And David Levine, executive director and co-founder of the American Sustainable Business Council said, “This bold move by Stonyfield forges new ground to advance the use of sustainable biomaterials as a pathway to new economic, social, and environmental benefits.”

FOOD Inc’s director Robby Kenner agrees. “I appreciate Stonyfield’s search for something sustainable and better, rather than waiting for something perfect,” he says. “In the world of sustainability, it’s all a matter of weighing issues.”

We weighed them, and decided to go radical: We’re open sourcing everything we’ve learned on this journey. We’re inviting others to join us and hoping they do. Really. (hear Gary say it himself in the video…)

If all dairy companies in the United States follow suit and replace their polystyrene containers with plant-based plastics, carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced by 671,234 metric tons a year. That’s equal to the emissions from 1.5 million barrels of oil – or the energy use for 57,000 homes for one year.

Wow. What an impact. And what an ultimate goal to work toward. If our story in the near future could become: from cornfield to cup to complete industry change, then I’d remember today as more than just inspiring…I’d remember it as the day we inspired a revolution. That’s what I call a worthy and wonderful Wednesday.

What do you think?